CPSIA Update: Common Sense is Fixing the Law, WSJ Says

By August 12, 2009General, Regulations

A Wall Street Journal editorial on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, “Consumer Product Destruction:

Last year, Congress whooped through the Consumer Product Safety and Improvement Act to soothe fears about lead paint on toys from China. In its hurry, it imposed draconian lead limits that have ravaged businesses in industries from childrens books to thrift stores to ATVs since the law went into effect in February. This week, the screws are tightening further, as products directed at children under 12 must meet stricter lead standards, and companies face higher penalties for any mistakes. Because the rules are retroactive, toys or other items that are legal to sell on Thursday will be banned on Friday.

And this time Dick Durbin and Henry Waxman won’t have a Republican to blame. Last spring, Congressional Democrats pounded the CPSC’s Republican Chairman Nancy Nord for the law’s failings. In an April letter to Ms. Nord, 28 Senators, including Mr. Durbin, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller and Dianne Feinstein insisted that “Congress provided for agency discretion” and anticipated the CPSC would use that discretion in a way that “would recognize anomalies in implementation.”

That was an attempt to dodge blame for the mess Congress created. The problem is that the law itself explicitly bars the CPSC from making judgments on product safety risks when handing down exclusions. In a July decision denying a petition by jewelry makers to exempt crystal and glass beads, new Obama Chairman Inez Tenenbaum cited the same issue that Nancy Nord did. To wit, for the agency to grant an exemption would mean using risk analysis, which is forbidden by the law. Such an interpretation “appears to be in direct conflict with the statutory language,” Ms. Tenenbaum wrote

And the conclusion: “Commissioner Tenenbaum says she favors a “common sense approach” to regulation, but she needs Congress to rewrite the law. Until Congress acts, products that pose no risk to consumers will continue to be recalled and destroyed while businesses struggle with additional costs in a recession.”


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